One year ago : Part 1
Today marks the one year anniversary of the launch of the Kickstarter campaign. It's been an awesome year!
First a message from Rand
Ryan here. Project Manager of Obduction and Producer of the Kickstarter campaign. First, I want to thank you for supporting Obduction. This game would not exist without your help, and I'm personally grateful. We have been radio silent for a bit, and we will update you on what is going on. However, let me start this update with a post-mortem of the Kickstarter campaign and the project that became Obduction.
We should go back to the start. At my wedding in the summer of 2012, a group of former and current Cyan employees got together and hung out. During that event we talked about the recently successful Double Fine Adventure and other successful Kickstarters. We also talked about how Cyan should do a Kickstarter but didn't know how or have the extra cycles to make it happen. The next few months were a blur and soon it was October. A group of us got together again, and the topic came up again.
I was not working at Cyan at this point, but I couldn't help but believe that Cyan could do a Kickstarter. After that meeting I contacted a few former employees and asked, "What if we spent the time and effort to make a campaign happen?" Everyone was on board. The team believes in the company and the products Cyan makes, and, even with multiple layoffs over the years, we all wanted to be back. The mantra at the time was, "If we try and fail, at least we tried."
So starting in October 2012 I spent my evenings researching and reading any documentation I could find on crowdsourcing and Kickstarter. We started coming up with an idea and a timeline for when we wanted to launch the Kickstarter campaign. Then the holidays got in the way, and we were unable to meet with Rand and Tony 'til January.
In January we started talking to Cyan about Project Copperpot, a new Myst game. Since 2008 Cyan had worked on several Myst game ideas. Every one was turned down by publishers. Kickstarter was our chance to get one of these ideas published.
The meetings at Rand's house were awesome. Everyone was excited to try to make something new happen at Cyan. Then Rand came in one day and changed everything. He, too, had been doing his research and came to the team with a very convincing pitch. He wanted to do "Obduction", but not the idea all the team members knew.
To provide a little bit of history, Obduction was the name of a project Cyan came up with in 2005. It had many iterations, but was based on the idea of being part of an alien abduction. As with many of the ideas that had been pitched to publishers, it was eventually shelved. So Rand sold us on this new Obduction idea - a new intellectual property. Leave the Myst IP to the side for now and come out with something totally new. A spiritual successor to the experience that Myst and Riven had given players. Rand said something during that meeting that I will never forget and the thing that sold me on a new IP. He said, "If we do another Myst game, everyone will always say it’s a sequel to Myst. And with realMyst Masterpiece being released, this project could get lost in the noise."
From that point we were working on a new Kickstarter project: Obduction.
Over the next few months we met every month. We didn't have much to show or the ability / funds to make it happen. So we worked for a June launch and soon recorded Rand's Kickstarter video. Of course, as luck would have it, we recorded this video when Rand was suffering with pneumonia. The page was a mess, the video horrible. It was time to regroup. We had only one chance at this; let's not waste it.
We decided it was time to invest in the future. Eric would work on a teaser trailer, Rand would be rerecorded, and we would get any friends / former co-workers of Cyan to help us create a successful pitch. After work (from my paying job) and during weekends, Kickstarter was my obsession. It was the only thing I thought about for months. I thank my wife for being patient with me.
We set a new date for the Kickstarter launch. Oct 2013. We made press lists, we cleaned up the website, and everyone at Cyan started to get involved in the Obduction Kickstarter. We filmed Rand again, and it was good. I'd like to give an official thank you to Jeff Lanctot for letting us borrow his time and gear for the video. It only looks and sounds as good as it does because of Jeff. Then at 6 AM on October 17th, 2013 Cyan officially launched the Obduction Kickstarter… and boy that was a fun ride.
- So I won't go into to much detail of the campaign itself, but I will give you a few of the highlights.
- After we hit the start button, I had to go to my full-time job. A job I would do every day of the Kickstarter campaign before coming home and working late into the night answering and tending social media blitzes.
- Half a million in about 4.5 days - Woah! Ba!
- Made a lot of great friends because of the campaign.
• Our Kickstarter campaign team consisted of Rand (doing Kickstarter emails), Lauren (1/2 day social media engagement), Vicki (working with press) and myself (evenings and weekends of social media and community engagement). A very small team.
- The team had become weary by the end of the campaign, but I was sure we would make it. Secretly, I was hoping for a miracle.
- A miracle came in the form of two things - a mass emailing and a single tweet. We had held back on any mass mailings until we felt it was absolutely necessary, and now we were ready. We had plenty of email addresses of people who had signed up for Myst Online, so we sent out a large mass mailing. Also, our fans had been contacting celebrities in hopes to get them to endorse Cyan. At about the same time as the mass mailing something big occurred. I remember it well. I was sitting in my office when I got a text message that NPH just tweeted us. Sure enough, I went and looked, and there it was. I sent Lauren a text and then just sat there. Tears ran down my face. The bump in supporters was substantial, and I knew at that moment we had accomplished what we set out to do. With Neil Patrick Harris's tweet, we made the 1.1 million and beyond. That moment changed things. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Neil Patrick Harris. I don't know the best way to reach out to you, but Cyan would love to talk to you!
The campaign ended 30 days later and instantly my body was a wreck. Some have asked if I would do it again, the answer will always be, "yes." It has been the most fulfilling project I have been a part of to date. The Cyan team is like family, and I'm glad to be home.
Officially Cyan didn't start working on the Obduction project 'til 2014. They were still wrapping up realMyst Masterpiece at the end of 2013. We now have our team together (minus a few art staff we hope to hire later this year), and we are working toward a late 2015 release. It has been an incredible ride so far, and I can't wait to see this product in the hands of the public.
Quantifying the Success
I've received multiple emails asking how we made such a successful campaign. The campaign wasn't successful because of anything Cyan did. It was successful because of all of you... the backers! Some people who have had a successful Kickstarter campaign like to call themselves experts. We are no experts, but we did do our research. Here our some of the questions I get asked. You might find them interesting.
1. What was the best way for you guys to build your tribe before launching?
We have been building our tribe since 1993. We have a huge fan base. During the campaign we engaged with them.
2. What source drove the most funding to your campaign (i.e. an article from press or something like that?
Percentage of backers from different venues.
- Direct traffic (no referrer information) 24%
- Searching on Kickstarter 14%
- Kickstarter Newsletter 6%
- Facebook 6%
- Google 6%
- Polygon was the best referral site for news organizations. Roughly 1 % of the backers.
3. Did you use any third parties / software throughout any point of the campaign you'd recommend to us?
We used Meshfire to engage with our Twitter followers. It is an amazing tool, and I will always rave about it. We also used Buffer and Pocket. Finally, we hired the best marketing consultant I know to help us. www.marketinggal.com
4. What was the coolest / most creative thing you guys did to drive sales to your campaign?
By far Neil Patrick Harris tweeting about Obduction.
5. How did you prepare your press materials / press kit? What did you do in them that was special?
Yes - prepare, prepare, prepare. Everything had our logo on it, and we gave the press access to an area that will continue to get updated as time moves forward.
6. Did you use any PR agencies? Would you recommend them?
We did not use an agency. We researched and prepared for about a year to be ready for the Kickstarter.
7. Any general tips?
Take your time. Make sure you are happy with your campaign before you launch. Be patient and be prepared not to sleep.
See the second part of this update tomorrow.